SMOKINCHOICES (and other musings)

October 13, 2012

Make your car a “keeper”


Take care of your car to make it a keeper


Although I’ve bought several new cars, I’m also a huge advocate of buying used.

Yes, there are plenty of lemons out there. But increasingly, people don’t have to argue about new versus used. They are keeping their cars for many years. My husband and I had a 1996 Toyota Camry that we bought used and have since passed on to a niece. Today the car, which she still drives, has more than 200,000 miles.

So being the penny pincher that I am, I was pleased to see a survey showing that the primary vehicle of 60 percent of the respondents has more than 100,000 miles. Two in three survey participants said they plan on driving their cars more than 150,000 miles or “until it dies.”

The survey results also found that people overwhelmingly believe 10 or more years is a fitting lifespan for owning a vehicle. And most say that even if the economy were better, it would not change their propensity to keep their vehicle longer.

“Our data has been showing this trend for the past three years, but what is most compelling is that longer ownership has become an embedded habit for car owners, regardless of what the economy does,” said Brian Hafer, vice president of marketing for  . “This significant lengthening of the ownership cycle looks like it is here to stay.”

When asked how this new longer vehicle life cycle would affect the choice of their next car, 52 percent said they would look at practicality rather than style because they want the vehicle to last. Helping the trend are better-made vehicles and online help for owners with repair issues.

  • It’s a good thing people are holding on to their cars, because they won’t get a big price break on late-model used vehicles. The price gap between new and used vehicles in many segments has narrowed significantly, said Alec Gutierrez, senior market analyst of automotive insights for Kelley Blue Book. In a recent commentary on KBB’s website, Gutierrez said new vehicles on average are selling for only 11.5 percent more than a comparable year-old used car. Used subcompact and compact cars offer consumers an average savings from 5 to 7 percent.

“While traditionally shoppers would save thousands of dollars by purchasing a slightly used vehicle rather than new, this is no longer the case, as used-car values remain near their all-time peak,” Gutierrez wrote.

  • Here’s the thing: If you’d like to hang on to your car for a decade or more, you’ve got to take care of it. That means building into your budget a monthly allowance for car maintenance. Notice I didn’t say repairs. I mean put money away to get regular checkups so that a mechanic can identify issues early before you’re on the side of the road with a steaming engine.

One of the most expensive repair mistakes is neglecting preventive maintenance and minor repairs,   says. That rattle you hear is telling you something. And when was the last time you changed your engine oil and filter?

  • Preventive maintenance isn’t optional, especially if you rely on your car to get to work. Regularly service your vehicle so you can avoid or at least minimize major repair bills that could make you cry or, worse, make you believe it’s cheaper to just give up and buy a new or used car that you really might not be able to afford.

Michelle Singletary writes for the Washington Post Writers Group.



  1. Pretty nice post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wished to mention that I have really loved surfing around your blog posts. After all I’ll be subscribing to your rss feed and I am hoping you write again soon!

    Comment by Car body repair Stockport,Classic car repairs / restoration,Custom paint work,Dents and scratches ,Accident repair centres,End of lease refurbs — October 19, 2012 @ 8:47 am | Reply

    • Hair is it? Thank you for your expressed approval of the blog. Smokinchoices is in its 5th year now of posting on most anything related to health, nature and our concerns for taking care of that which we love. Why shouldn’t that also include the precious autos we drive ourselves around in? Proper care and planning generally result in better outcomes – right? Good to hear from you, Jan

      Comment by Jan Turner — October 19, 2012 @ 11:26 am | Reply

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